28 February, 2012

Kids' costumes continued

I mentioned in my last post that my oldest child has a Tudor field trip on World Book Day.

What this actually involves is a visit to a local Tudor stately home dressed in Tudor-style costume (thank God for the internet!). Sounds like a great day out, doesn't it? Sixty plus ten-year-olds running amock in a listed building. Mmm. I'll be keeping my distance.

But what's even more interesting (worrying?) is that we're required to provide a packed lunch which has "an authentic feel for this period". (Yes, I am quoting directly from the parent information leaflet that my daughter brought home for this event.) Most intriguing is the information that Tudor drinks "would have come in stone jars with stoppers or wooden barrels."

They're not seriously suggesting that I provide my child's apple juice in an earthenware flagon, are they? Please tell me I'm wrong...

26 February, 2012

World Book Day

It’s World Book Day this week and sourcing costumes for this event is always a chore.

For the uninitiated, World Book Day means that primary school children are invited to come to school dressed as their favourite book character—and no primary school age child worth his or her salt would pass up the opportunity to attend school dressed in mufti. (I don’t know whether World Book Day has any other consequences, but this is the one that affects my household.)

This year is even more tricky than usual. My youngest wants to dress as Hermione Granger. Not too much of a problem—there are plenty of Harry Potter crew costumes on sale on the internet. HOWEVER, my oldest has Tudor Day the day before World Book Day, which requires us to provide full Tudor costume for her. Then the following day (World Book Day itself), she is going on a Tudor field trip (don’t ask) which requires full Tudor costume PLUS World Book Day costume for when she returns from said field trip.

One costume per child on World Book Day is just about manageable, even if it does send parents scrabbling for the sewing machine or, more realistically, for their wallets. But two costumes?

Come on school, give us a break.

23 February, 2012

Credit cards

An interesting situation arose at work this week – we were issued with a new departmental credit card. Not that stunning in itself, but the interesting thing is that this credit card has a per transaction limit of £500.

Problem: many of the things that we buy for work purposes, traditionally using the departmental credit card, cost more than £500.

So, we sought advice from our senior management team on what to do in those situations where we were required to buy something for the business that cost more than £500.

Answer: use your personal credit card and claim the cost back on expenses.

So you expect us menial and poorly-paid employees to use our personal credit limits to buy business goods and then wait a month to receive the money back in expenses?

I don’t think so.

18 February, 2012

Swimming pool etiquette?

I go swimming twice a week. I’m reasonably fast, but not very, and I don’t like being confined, so I generally swim in the open half of the pool and steer clear of the lanes. I have two observations to make about my local pool:

The open half seems, at certain times of the day, to be dominated by overweight women of a certain age who insist on swimming along very slowly side by side, chatting. Since they take up the whole of the available width, they prevent anyone from (a) swimming at a reasonable speed and (b) overtaking them.

And these people actually look surprised when you very politely say ‘excuse me’ and try to squeeze past them.

I have on occasion been forced by the situation above into the lanes. On these occasions I choose to swim in the ‘medium’ lane, since the ‘slow’ lane is far too slow for me and the ‘fast’ lane is far too fast. Yet, invariably, there is one fast-lane fugitive in the medium lane who insists on irritating everyone by (a) splashing wildly when overtaking and (b) almost knocking others out when s/he executes an unnecessarily show-off underwater turn at the end of each length.

Swimming pool etiquette, anyone?

Common sense?

I’m by nature an information gatherer. I find out how to do things and I store that information in my head for future use.

Other people are not information gathers, it seems, or not in the work context anyway.

We have a set of rules about how to do things at my work—I’m sure most of you do at your work too—things like booking travel and accommodation for business purposes, or claiming back on expenses. Being me, I’ve learnt this set of rules and, in an attempt to stop my colleagues asking me each and every time how to do something, I’ve written those rules down. In the simplest form possible. In bullet points. (The rules aren’t that hard to understand anyway.)

Today, for the third time in as many weeks, one of my colleagues (let’s call her Gertrude, for the sake of argument) asks ‘How do I book a train ticket again?’

I reply: ‘The same way you did last week.’

She says: ‘Can you just show me?’

I reply: ‘It’s on the bulleted how-to list that I sent to you yesterday.’

She says: ‘Sorry, which list was that? I can’t remember as far back as yesterday.’

These people are supposed to be some of the brightest around. They’ve got PhDs and all. But when it comes to common sense...I GIVE UP!


Today my daughter brought home the list of spellings that she has to learn for her school test next week. When I glanced at her spelling book, I had rather a shock. Three of the words were spelt like this:


She’d copied these words down from the board, where her teacher had written them, and they’d been marked as correct by her teacher. And this isn’t the first time...

Call me old fashioned, but what’s the point of a child trying to learn words that are incorrectly spelt? Looks like I’ll need to have a quiet word in said teacher’s ear tomorrow.

Appraisal time!

Guess what? Appraisals at work today (or is the politically correct term now ‘performance development reviews’?) and everyone’s getting very excited. But why, I ask myself.

I work in the university sector, which means that no matter how well anyone scores in their appraisal, that score has no effect whatsoever on their pay. Ordinarily a university employee moves one increment up the pay scale once a year, no matter what.

What a wonderful incentive for the highest performers! But even that little joy is currently denied, given that we've been subject to a pay freeze for the past three years.

The evaluation categories on the appraisal forms at my work are: outstanding; very good; good; not fully meeting requirements; unacceptable. Yet it is an unwritten rule that no manager should ever award ‘outstanding’ to any of his/her employees. So, no matter how well you perform, your performance is never judged outstanding.

Interesting logic there. And another great incentive.